I need a weird heater for reptile tank

Thread Starter

SwollenUvula

Joined Jul 3, 2020
4
I have a 3 tier reptile tank, but apparently there are not other things to heat them other than lamps an mats. Needless to say I need to know if there is a way to build a circuit (or buy) one that can also regulate the temperature output with an accuracy of 1+/- degree. I basically am going to hook whatever it is up to a tube of some sort with a fan and send it into my tanks.
 

Irving

Joined Jan 30, 2016
820
EBay has all sorts of temperature controllers and mini heaters, heat lamps, etc. that this should be possible off-the-shelf. A temperature controller is also easy to knock up with a sensor board, a relay board and an Arduino microcontroller. Adding wifi/bluetooth connectivity for control & monitoring wouldn't be hard.

Sounds like a souped up hairdryer is what you need..
 

Thread Starter

SwollenUvula

Joined Jul 3, 2020
4
EBay has all sorts of temperature controllers and mini heaters, heat lamps, etc. that this should be possible off-the-shelf. A temperature controller is also easy to knock up with a sensor board, a relay board and an Arduino microcontroller. Adding wifi/bluetooth connectivity for control & monitoring wouldn't be hard.

Sounds like a souped up hairdryer is what you need..
Basically what I need is a souped up hairdryer tbh. The quieter the better. I'm new at electronics (I haven't really done anything) Would you be able to help me pick up some parts for it?
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,358
The first question is how important is it to not cook whatever you have in the tanks. any arduino system will probably go wrong and at some point delver maximum heat for a while.
If you need to keep the temperature of the contents constant probably a heat mat is the best choice.
For any heating controller you will need also a temperature sensor that is accurate enough and durable so that it will not fail. I am guessing that reliability, stability, and accuracy are important in your application.You will also need to be sure that the controller you get will work with the sensor you get. So the whole project does get a bit complex.
 

Thread Starter

SwollenUvula

Joined Jul 3, 2020
4
The first question is how important is it to not cook whatever you have in the tanks. any arduino system will probably go wrong and at some point delver maximum heat for a while.
If you need to keep the temperature of the contents constant probably a heat mat is the best choice.
For any heating controller you will need also a temperature sensor that is accurate enough and durable so that it will not fail. I am guessing that reliability, stability, and accuracy are important in your application.You will also need to be sure that the controller you get will work with the sensor you get. So the whole project does get a bit complex.
It is pretty important to not cook them. The tanks are pretty big and in an air conditioned room so mats don't work. I tried a heat lamp and they ended up burning themselves on the lamp. I just need something to work before winter
 
You want one of these. Spendy, but worth every penny in peace of mind.

https://www.vivariumelectronics.com/index.html

Plug and play. Just add a heat mat and test to be sure that Tmax doesn't reach dangerous levels if the stat goes haywire. Also provide an air gap between the bottom of the mat and the top of whatever surface the tank is sitting on for the aforementioned reason.

If you need space heat for your reptiles, radiant heat panels are an option - but be careful which ones you buy. None that I know of have been listed by any independent testing laboratory and some have developed reputations as ignition sources. Ceramic heat emitters and heat lamps are another option - but only for screen mesh topped tanks. CHEs and heat lamps are not intended for use inside of the animal enclosure due to their very high surface temperatures.

Remember that this is something that is going to be generating heat 24 hours a day, including when you're not home. The last thing you want is some home brew solution to go awry and start your house on fire (with all your animals inside) due to some simple design flaw or error in execution. Play it safe with heat sources. The safest bet of all is to control the ambient temperature of the room itself - that way only a relatively small adjustment (I.E. heat mat) is needed to provide a hot spot inside the tank.
 
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Irving

Joined Jan 30, 2016
820
I'm sure there is are a plethora of proprietary (ie expensive) solutions (a mate of mine keeps Iguanas, don't understand the attraction myself, but I'll ask him what he does).

While there is always a risk of things going wrong the impact, IMHO, is always down to poor thinking ahead. Even proprietary solutions can go wrong. The trick is to assess what could go wrong and have mitigation in place. It would have to be a pretty shoddy setup, IMHO, to set fire to the house if a sensor failed, but these things can and do happen if shortcuts are taken (eg Boeing Dreamliner :) ).
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
6,358
You want one of these. Spendy, but worth every penny in peace of mind.

https://www.vivariumelectronics.com/index.html

Plug and play. Just add a heat mat and test to be sure that Tmax doesn't reach dangerous levels if the stat goes haywire. Also provide an air gap between the bottom of the mat and the top of whatever surface the tank is sitting on for the aforementioned reason.

If you need space heat for your reptiles, radiant heat panels are an option - but be careful which ones you buy. None that I know of have been listed by any independent testing laboratory and some have developed reputations as ignition sources. Ceramic heat emitters and heat lamps are another option - but only for screen mesh topped tanks. CHEs and heat lamps are not intended for use inside of the animal enclosure due to their very high surface temperatures.

Remember that this is something that is going to be generating heat 24 hours a day, including when you're not home. The last thing you want is some home brew solution to go awry and start your house on fire (with all your animals inside) due to some simple design flaw or error in execution. Play it safe with heat sources. The safest bet of all is to control the ambient temperature of the room itself - that way only a relatively small adjustment (I.E. heat mat) is needed to provide a hot spot inside the tank.
I followed that link to that product and I see several interesting things. First, not one word about accuracy of either control or temperature reading. For most products, they brag about how accurate they are. And then, second, there is no mention of what kind of sensor is used, or the range covered. So I suggest that you ask some questions because there is important information missing in that ad.
One more consideration is about the ruggedness of the sensor, and are the residents going to chew through the connections? Some creatures always mistake wires for roots, and try to eat them.
 
I followed that link to that product and I see several interesting things. First, not one word about accuracy of either control or temperature reading. For most products, they brag about how accurate they are. And then, second, there is no mention of what kind of sensor is used, or the range covered. So I suggest that you ask some questions because there is important information missing in that ad.
One more consideration is about the ruggedness of the sensor, and are the residents going to chew through the connections? Some creatures always mistake wires for roots, and try to eat them.
Sorry for not going into further depth. I use one of those stats myself. They are a probe-type stat, utilizing a small RTD that gets inserted between the tank bottom and the top of the heat mat. That eliminates the chewing problem, the "whoops, it got peed on and short circuited" problem, and ensures the measurement reflects the hottest point in the heating sytem (which helps to minimize risk of overheating under normal conditions). These units are also equipped with an audible alarm that is triggered when the control error exceeds a certain value for too long. Handy for detecting an open circuit, probe issue, etc.

Accuracy seems to be just fine from my observations. Certainly close enough for a reptile. The 200s and 300s are pulse-proportional stats, so the 120V output is modulated at low frequency based on the probe temperature. Mine seems to hold +/- 1 degree when measured with an IR thermometer after negating changes in the room ambient. There is a thermal gradient between the heat mat and the inside of the tank, so wide swings in room temperature will inevitably have an effect. But realistically you're going to get that with any kind of heating arrangement - unless you stick the probe inside on the the bottom surface of the tank where your critters are actually going to be making skin contact. This is not recommended - what happens if a cold critter sits on top of the probe? Arguably you could also use a side or top-mounted probe furnished with suitable guarding and some kind of forced air arrangement like OP suggested, but forced air does not provide the thermal gradient neccesary for your cold-blooded buddies to thermoregulate.

As for trustworthiness and reliability, they seem to be the unofficial standard - at least from what I've observed first hand. Every reptile store I've visited uses stacks of "VE-300x2" stats to regulate their stock tanks.

TL;DR your mileage may vary given that everything here is anecdotal, but my experience suggests they're decent little units. No UL or Intertek listing, but such is the unfortunate reality with pretty much every reptile product on the market. Just my two cents. Hope that helps
 
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OK, it seems that the products will work. But it is important to verify because there is also a lot of junk available on line.
I hear you loud and clear. That's sort of why I cautioned about radiant heating panels earlier - they're high wattage devices (40-120W) that get enclosed at the top of a confined space which is often constructed from combustible materials. Many are fitted with thermal switches for safety, but a thermal switch doesn't do a lick of good if the manufacturer doesn't apply it correctly internally or fails to include a redundant thermal fuse in the event it cycles itself to failure, etc. Lots to think about when dealing with heating products.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
4,737
I don't own reptiles, nor have I had to heat a tank in years. Last fish tank I heated was back in the 90's. I may be giving myself a reputation of stating some dumb ideas, but here goes: I was thinking of how some homes have hot water radiant heating beneath the floor. Heated water flowing through tubes to deliver heat. Of course, I realize that the water in those heat systems is heated to some pretty high temperatures. But I can imagine reducing the temperature to something a little closer to the final output temperature you want to keep your critters warm.

You mentioned chewing. Plastic tubing inside their environment would be subject to exactly that problem. But not so with copper quarter inch tubing.

You also mentioned an air conditioned space where these tanks reside. I'm guessing that AC is cooling your tanks to an unacceptable level. On that line of thinking - put your tanks inside an enclosed plexiglass enclosure. You can see them but they're not directly subjected to the AC. Also, in such an environment you can better control the temperature.

As for a fail safe; a simple bi-metallic strip, the kind used years ago for Heat and AC. In the heat mode the temperature will rise until contact is broken. IF the tanks become warmer than you want that strip can open the circuit and stop the heating process. That way you don't come home to cooked chicken. Or something that might taste like chicken.

Speaking of chickens - have you looked into incubators? You might find a solution along that line as well.

OK, that's it for me. I don't think I can come up with any more dumb suggestions.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,374
How big is the tank? Volume of water?
What is the set temperature?
What is your ambient temperature?

Details, details, details!

Edit: oops! Sorry, is this an open air tank as opposed to an aquarium?
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
2,259
Reptile terrariums need BOTH heat and cool. Reptiles are cold-blooded and like to bask in the heat and nest/hide in the shade. Typically constructed with an artificial "den"/rock platform in a corner or end of the tank and open area with water source usually large enough to allow bathing. They will bask on top of the structure closer to the lamp and hide under it in the shade. Add some climbing limbs for snakes and small lizards. Usually with a mesh cover to prevent escape and allow ventilation and a light hood to provide light and heat. Adjusting the wattage of the incandescent lamp in the hood is your typical heat control. Start at 40W and work up as needed. Also usually kept in a room that has temperature control. If the temp in the room is good for you it is good for the tank. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
 
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